Monday, February 28th, 2011

Dubai has been able to transform itself from a backwater to an aerotropolis along the new Silk Road, Greg Lindsay says:

It now has more in common with Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangalore than with Saudi Arabia next door. It is a textbook example of an aerotropolis, which can be narrowly defined as a city planned around its airport or, more broadly, as a city less connected to its land-bound neighbors than to its peers thousands of miles away. The ideal aerotropolis is an amalgam of made-to-order office parks, convention hotels, cargo complexes and even factories, which in some cases line the runways. It is a pure node in a global network whose fast-moving packets are people and goods instead of data. And it is the future of the global city.
The basic aim of an aerotropolis is to disrupt local incumbents and monopolies using the long arm of air travel. It allows Indian hospitals to entice American heart patients for top-notch surgery at rock-bottom prices. It lets factories move out to the far reaches of western China to manufacture the iPad for lower wages while absorbing millions of urban migrants. Detroit’s leaders are even building an aerotropolis in a Hail Mary bid for Chinese investment.

Floating above it all, meanwhile, are the globe-trotting executives chasing emerging markets. They are the denizens not only of Dubai and Singapore but of new business districts such as the Zuidas on the southern edge of Amsterdam, which was designed to be eight minutes from the airport by train and is home to the Netherlands’ biggest financial service firms.

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